Incomparably the First Political Journalist of Her Time
By Carolyn Sayler
"With newspapers and conventional journalism on the wane, this book is a fascinating reminder of the tremendous influence traditional newspapers once held over the everyday life and politics of American citizens." --KANSAS HISTORY
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"She was my idol," said columnist Mary McGrory. McGrory, in writing of women, referred to Doris Fleeson as "incomparably the first political journalist of her time." Fleeson was, in fact, the first woman in the United States to become a nationally syndicated political columnist. In 1945, with the encouragement of Henry Mencken, she launched her column. In her career she would write some 5,500 columns during the next twenty-two years. Fleeson's appearance could be disarming. Once at a party Lady Bird Johnson exclaimed, "What a gorgeous dress, Doris. It makes you look just like a sweet, old-fashioned girl." The wife of Senator Stuart Symington interjected, "Yes, just a sweet old-fashioned girl with a shiv in her hand."
Comments of a few of her friends:
Eleanor Roosevelt: "I am always happy to see her because one expects journalists and war correspondents to lose some of their enthusiasm and convictions. Doris always feels strongly and bolsters my feeling that it is worth fighting for the things one believes in."
Henry Mencken: "Your pieces are excellent stuff…. You get as much into 400 or 500 words as the comrades get into columns, and it is better told."
Liz Carpenter: "She was short, attractive, thin and full of bustle…. You admired this woman who had carved her way into being significant at the President's press conferences."
Helen Thomas: "What struck me was that in conversation she was on her soapbox and could be very vehement. Her columns were straight, balanced, unbiased…. They were so intelligent…."
Jacqueline Kennedy: "I cannot tell you how touched and grateful I am that you should write such a thing. You are so many altitudes above 'women's page' subjects…."
Carolyn Sayler lives in Lyons, Kansas, ten miles from the town of Sterling where Doris Fleeson was born in 1901. Knowing members of the Fleeson family, she began researching the life of the columnist whose straightforward take on Washington became a daily fix for newspaper readers across the nation. Sayler has a background in journalism as a member of a Kansas newspaper family. She is the author of a history of Manhattan, Kansas, which tells of the town's founding during the Free State struggle, its strong connections with New England, and its abolitionist college, now Kansas State University.
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